Last week, while wandering through Exodus 15 debating whether or not the death of Pharaoh’s soldiers was justified, the teenagers (I would call them my teenagers, but they are uncomfortable with possessive pronouns, so these particular teenagers shall remain ambivalently “the” teenagers) stumbled into the age-old pacifist dilemma:
If given the opportunity to kill Hitler, would you, and would you still call yourself a pacifist?
Much to their frustration, at the time, I didn’t answer the question. The answer is, of course, no. The answer is always “no,” because this question is first of all a word-trap designed to catch pacifist inconsistencies. Its phrasing, almost always spoken by pro-war voices looking to poke holes in the pacifist stance, is based on flawed logic.
You can’t kill Hitler because you can’t kill Hitler. The whole premise of the question assumes (1) that there is such a thing as moral murder and (2) that it is possible for a human to, factoring all information, come to the utilitarian conclusion and carry out the ethical action that results in death. The question is, “Knowing what we know now, assuming you could apparate to a point in time in which all confluence of factors aligned to allow for the murder of a despot that is guaranteed to result in a net loss of fewer lives, would you align yourself to be the arbiter of death and justice?” Continue reading